I probably should have researched the whole thing a bit more before so casually tossing it out there.
“Oh, I was going to make you the Bon Appetit Ribbon cake… But if you want Baker’s Square, that’s OK too.”
Seriously. That is exactly how it went down.
Seriously. I could have gone to the Baker’s Square and bought a French Silk pie.
I’m not going to post the recipe for this. You can google “ribbon cake” and read all about it, find the recipe and read the many, many, stories about people’s experiences with this cake. It was the cover photo for the holiday issue of Bon Appetit this year. Apparently, it has been the most requested recipe in their history.
I just don’t get it. I hate baking, I’m not that fond of chocolate cake, and I can’t even eat dark chocolate. Clearly, though, I am in the minority. I knew Morgan would love it and it had been years since I made any fun birthday cake for her. I used to go waaaaay out of my way when they were little. Fondant… designs… crazy times! I’m too lazy to round up all the pictures. In fact, the best ones are missing from this set (the caterpillar and the tea pot come to mind), but you’ll get the idea.
Try not to be too put off by that moonscape StarWars one. That was, admittedly a monstrosity, but Charlie loved it, so it was all good.
Anyway, back to the ribbon cake: it wasn’t really hard. I mean, the recipe is exceptionally well-written. And while the techniques are unique — I’ve never made a buttercream that involves pouring boiling sugar syrup into the eggs and butter — they were all very doable, with tips and notes aplenty. If you don’t know how to cream butter and sugar, you might be challenged, but for most who have baked a cake before, it wouldn’t be too intimidating.
It’s the time.
Let me repeat that again for emphasis: It’s the time.
This little effer took me over 6 hours. I came home from taking Morgan to her driver’s test at about 11 am (crying, I might add, because she didn’t pass and I felt like I ruined her birthday by letting her take the test on “the big day” — thanks, Pam, for your own story of how your son remembers none of the amazing things you did to celebrate his 16th, all because he failed the test on his birthday…) …and I never stopped making the cake until we left for dinner at about 7pm.
it. was. insane.
But she loved it. So it was worth it. It made for pretty picture-taking, too.
Jennie’s Ribbon Cake Notes.
The recipe makes three 9-inch layers. That was way, way more than we would ever eat, so I made a two-layered version, and cut the cake ingredients by 2/3.
Those are my calculations on the left. I was adding up all the white and dark chocolate I would need to buy. THIRTY FIVE OUNCES?! (that’s not including the white chocolate for the ribbons, either.)
I didn’t buy that much, thinking it insane. And I later lived to regret that decision, making Dave stop at the store to buy two more bars of semi-sweet chocolate so I would have enough for the glaze…
This was the first of many batches of melted chocolate. Note the bright sunshine, the glistening air of optimism! …Before the first bump in the road: folding in egg whites.
I hate folding in egg whites.
I find it a near-impossible task. The dense chocolate glob even harder than the few sponge cake varieties I have made with the same technique…
But I think I did it OK.
The layers turned out quite nice.
This was about the time the wheels came off. Up until then, I had been by myself, alternately calm, then weeping — yet single-mindedly committed to staying on task. And yes, the weeping seems quite ridiculous to me now, seven days later, but what can I say? It happened!
I was about three hours in, when my mom came down to chat.
I know now I’m not a multi-tasking baker. I can’t talk and pay attention to little things like “1/2 cup corn syrup, divided.” And I added the entire 1/2 cup to the melting white chocolate. Oops.
And I stopped taking pictures. Because I realized I was running out of time. (still no shower and I really needed a shower). And my mom was talking. And it was dark. And I hate using my flash. And I was trying so hard to pay attention. I’m a terrible listener under even the best circumstances.
Oh, I forgot one important thing: I had also decided, out of delusions of grandeur — and the need to try to emblazon the wonderful celebration of her 16th birthday that didn’t involve failing her test — to fry her some stupid cheese curds. She had been asking me all week if she could deep fry some stupid cheese curds my parents bought, and all week I had said NO. (I hate deep frying smell, mess, hassle and abstain whenever possible.)
So I was also trying to do that on the QT while making buttercream, glaze and chocolate ribbons.
Oh, and did you know the cake had to be frozen for an hour? No. No, I did not. Thankfully, it was about 5 below that day and I was able to super-speed the process. So there is always that to consider when you are complaining about frigid temps.
I wish I had a picture of the glaze going on. It was pretty cool. But I was tilting and pouring and smoothing and pouring — all while trying not to drop the cake. I was unable to capture it on camera.
Above is the chocolate mixed with corn syrup. (Note the waning light as day becomes night…) After it cools, you knead it like dough and run it through a pasta roller. The dark chocolate worked PERFECTLY and was so cool!
And this is the white chocolate. You can see the difference, no? This is the batch I added too much corn syrup to. There was nothing I could do. I had no more white chocolate and I had already sent Dave to the store. Our local grocery store doesn’t even carry white chocolate. So I made due. As long as the cake was cool, the ribbons held their shape, but they wilted as it came to room temperature. All things considered, it could have been worse.
Ironically, the restaurant (Fogo De Chao) brought her this complimentary slice of cake
But isn’t it the thought that counts?
Or is it the time that counts?
Or is it the chocolate that counts?
Maybe it’s the memories that count.
I think that must be it.[Aside: it is seven days later and today, at 1:30 pm CST, Morgan passed her test. Perhaps I will live to regret this day, but for now, we are all very happy!]